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Former chief judge dies on vacation

Duluth Judge Sally Tarnowski died March 6 while on vacation in Florida.

Judge Tarnowski served as the Chief Judge of the Sixth Judicial District from 2016 to 2020. She most recently served as a St. Louis County judge in Duluth, and occasionally heard cases in Carlton County.

“All of us within the Minnesota courts community are devastated by the loss of Judge Tarnowski,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea. “Beyond her exemplary service to Minnesota, Judge Tarnowski was a vibrant person whose commitment to justice shined through in everything she did.”

Among her many accomplishments, Judge Tarnowski championed mental health treatment court, which offers offenders a pathway out of the justice system by completing a treatment program to stop the behavior that led them to court. She also supported early neutral evaluation in family court, which facilitates prompt dispute resolution for custody, parenting time, and financial matters.

On its Facebook page, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa lauded Tarnowski’s contributions to establishing the Indian Child Welfare Act Courtroom in St. Louis County, which was emulated in courtrooms across the area.

“Her continued support for the equality of Native American families was unheralded and a massive loss for the 6th Judicial District,” the FB post said.

Services are pending.